Troika's finale gets off to an early start with an afternoon Craft Show at the Trotter Building. More than two dozen local artisans will be peddling their wares—mostly apparel, jewelry and art—while Maria Albani's intelligent indie pop solo project, ORGANOS, and PHIL COOK AND HIS FEAT (the Megafaun member's gentle one-man folk band) gracefully score the shopping experience.
Thankfully, FILTHYBIRD (see this week's cover story, "Filthybird finally flies—in music and in love") plays unopposed at Motorco to start the evening slate of performances at 7 p.m. The quartet, which arrived in the Triangle area via Greensboro earlier this year, is one of the state's most underappreciated acts, gracing Renée Mendoza's gorgeous songbird cries with arrangements that blend pop, rock and experimental music. The biggest name of this year's festival, CHATHAM COUNTY LINE, arrives next. Undoubtedly the preeminent performers of the Triangle's rich roots scene, the quartet weaves a splendid acoustic tapestry grounded in the traditions of Bill Monroe, the Stanley Brothers and the Carter Family but informed by rock 'n' roll backgrounds. GROSS GHOST, which opens the night at The Casbah, is the unfortunate victim of scheduling here, but the hazy guitar pop mess made by the Mike Dillon-led quartet won't disappoint festivalgoers who are unable to squeeze into Motorco.
BILLY SUGARFIX'S CAROUSEL and THE LOOM—at Fullsteam Brewery and the Trotter Building, respectively—go head-to-head at 8:30 p.m. in a battle of indie-folk orchestras. The former, an anti-folk five-piece fronted by eccentric Carrboro songwriter Sugarfix, juxtaposes the outlandish—consider the Broadway-esque instructional tune "Take a Shower" and the meow-filled chorus of "Kitty Cat School"—with the sincerity of Sugarfix's confessional lyricism. The latter, a Brooklyn sextet, splashes banjo, accordion, ukulele, horns and junk percussion across traditional rock instrumentation, shaping dramatic tunes capable of feeling both intimate and arena-sized. Think The Arcade Fire gone camping. Chapel Hill's EZEKIEL GRAVES follows with a John Fahey-inspired solo set of beautifully fingerpicked steel guitar instrumentals, then takes the Trotter stage as his electronic alter ego, DATAHATA.
Graves is up against hometown boy JOE ROMEO, whose vibrant storytelling and knack for sharp melodies are a natural fit for the twangy classic rock provided by his band of Orange County Volunteers at Fullsteam. A half-mile away at 9:30 p.m., iconic Bull City anti-folk trio THE WIGG REPORT kick-starts Pinhook's evening with rambunctious sing-along pop rife with playful horns and boy/ girl harmonies. SHIPWRECKER—with its gothic, nautical-flavored dirges—starts just before both of these acts, at The Casbah.
Whatever your choice, make sure to catch a bit of GRAY YOUNG at The Casbah at 10 p.m. Compacting the swelling drama of post-rock instrumental icons Explosions of the Sky into short, four-minute bursts, the Raleigh trio also pays allegiance to influences like U2 with soaring hooks. Don't be ashamed if you choose to pull out early and head over to The Pinhook. Barely a year old, Chapel Hill's LAST YEAR'S MEN—who, coincidentally, are mostly still in their teens—is an invigorating shot in the arm. The trio unleashes furious blasts of eager, no-nonsense garage rock with undeniable refrains.
Meanwhile, over at Fullsteam at 10:30 p.m., Athens' FUTUREBIRDS sound like a distant cousin of Filthybird in more ways than one. Rife with scraggly harmonies, the sextet's lo-fi, reverb-heavy jangles also suggest kinship with My Morning Jacket and Fleet Foxes. Their avian comrade BIRDS OF AVALON close the night at The Casbah with scorching guitar harmonies, gang vocal choruses and trippy light projections.
The night's toughest decision comes with the 11:30 p.m. slot, when MOUNT MORIAH plays Fullsteam opposite SPIDER BAGS at The Pinhook. Your mood alone should be enough to make the call. Chapel Hill's Spider Bags do rowdy, boozy garage rock as well as anyone around, setting Dan McGee's howled narratives to fist-pumping shout-alongs. Meanwhile, Mount Moriah's loping, understated twang rock leaves vast space for Heather McEntire's arresting cries and heart-rending narratives to captivate the brewery's crowd.
Durham trio PINK FLAG's playful punk-pop may seem innocent at first glance, but sharp guitar slashes and aggressive riot grrrl intensity tell a different tale. They set the 1 a.m. stage at Motorco for HAMMER NO MORE THE FINGERS, the obvious and ideal closer for this year's fest. As much as any other band, the Durham trio supports its scene, which they'll reward again tonight with crunchy, melodic nuggets informed by the best of both early-'90s indie rock and mainstream alt-rock. Hammer's juicy bass-line bounces and compulsory sing-along choruses will likely carry the party late into the night, but if you've still got energy to burn at 12:30 a.m., chase Hammer with JUNK CULTURE, who spins busy, indie-informed pop grooves studded with fragmented video game effects at the Trotter.